The Faults of Others

A great comment on a post last week from Dolli-Mama ended with: “Cut your neighbor some slack and assume the best.”

I didn’t like reading it.

Because it’s like she was driving with me last week when I completely lost it after some drivers who, instead of merging, went right up to the construction and then merged so those of us (LIKE ME) who merged at THE MERGE RIGHT SIGN kept missing the stoplight. I raged because I was picking up my kids from school and I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO BE LATE BECAUSE OF THOUGHTLESS JERKS. Except I called them much worse and in the end wailed on my horn and gestured with vigor.

And when I pulled up to the people I had freaked out on at the next non-construction-laden stoplight, it was awkward. Because I remembered that we ALL have places to go.  I am actually not the most important person on the road.

I could’ve rolled down my window and said: Yesterday, I was talking to the head of the school so I was 10 minutes late picking up my children and they were upset and made me promise not to be late today and the construction was unexpected and I hate breaking my word to anyone but especially my babies who are just learning what a promise is.

My honking cursing mess seems reasonable now. I’m human and try really hard.  I know that y’all forgive me and have done it and get it and care.

But they have a story, too.   And I can’t assume understanding without giving any or it’s just self-rigorousness and self-pity.  But lately, I haven’t wanted to look at anyone’s side but mine.

I draw lines in the sand, and most people don’t even realize they’re on the other side. But I have taken their words wrong or have misread when they’re wearing, doing and not saying and somehow made it about me. Whenever I’m uncomfortable, I hate.  People are easy targets and the more I think that you don’t like me, the more I look to mock you.

I’ll whisper: She’s so weird.

Of course, some people ARE weird, but I want the person to be weird because I want others to not like them.  There’s laughter and viciousness and passive aggressive Facebook statuses that should stay in my head.  For a moment I feel better, but it’s never enough.

And the price is high.

Hatred is exhausting, and over time, I stop seeing the good in any people.  Anywhere.

Dolli-Mama’s comment reminded me when I did not wish to be reminded: There’s the person I want to be and there’s the person I’m acting like.

I want to be the person who believes the best rather than expects the worst.  I want to love too much and give too often.  I especially want to give the benefit of the doubt over and over again.

When I’ve been this person in the past, I’ve been lied to, cheated and made to look stupid.  But most of the time, I find that kindness, forgiveness and love reflected right back.

People are amazing like that.  Even the ones who forget to merge.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

23 thoughts on “The Faults of Others

  1. Alex, this post is so honest and I admire you for sharing it. The statement “There’s the person I want to be and there’s the person I’m acting like” really hit me.
    I wish the two would match more often, but in truth they don’t. I am frequently acting like a toddler, throwing tantrums and stomping my feet.
    This post is thought provoking, thank you for writing it.

  2. I am sooooo guilty of this exact same thing. Constantly. And the worst part is I claim to be so accepting and understanding. And then I call everyone dumb and stupid when they step over my undefined “line”.

    Sigh.

    I needed to read this post today. Thank you.

  3. The whole “turn the other cheek” doctrine is perhaps the one I find to be the most personally challenging.

    Well, and the “don’t be a smart ass all the time” commandment.

  4. I struggle with this, too. I miss the old me, who assumed the best in people and forgave easily.

    I tend to add 15 minutes to my commute to accommodate the non-mergers. I still get pissed, but not to the gesture point anymore. And I’m rarely late. Now, to tackle my truck driver mouth….

  5. I forget to merge.

    A lot.

    And people honk at me.

    Usually, it’s not that I want to “get ahead”. It’s more like I’m not let in. I put on my blinker and keep moving forward hoping someone will open up a spot for me. Instead, they all inch closer to the car in front of them until there’s no road left for me and they have to let me in.

    This is probably also because I need an inordinate amount of space around me and slow speeds before I merge at construction sites.

    I’m not a very good driver.

  6. I had to quote this as my facebook quote today: “There’s the person I want to be and there’s the person I’m acting like.”

    I’m also thinking of putting it on a post-it on my computer at work. It really resonated with where I am right now. I’m trying to work on my networking and social skills and removing the negative/critical/gossipy parts. Who I want to be doesn’t say negative things about others, the person I act like frequently yells in traffic and might call people an idiot from time to time. Also I may have to work on the sarcasm thing a little bit.

  7. Honestly I think most of us find ourselves in this position more often that we would like to admit.

    Life is crazy busy and all this rushing around has left everyone strained, stressed and exhausted. Good for you for taking the time to notice that you haven’t been then person that you want to be. Just by admitting that, I strongly suspect that you are well on your way to be just that!

  8. Loved this post, Alex! I guess we are all weird. I just pray God can use even my most annoying and “weird” attributes. He seems to be using yours! 🙂 (Just kidding…well not about the using you part…just the annoying/weird part!)

  9. Brilliant. And I agree wholeheartedly.
    (Which isn’t the only reason I think this is brilliant, so.)

    I generally assume people have the best intentions and get called Pollyanna for it. But I’d rather live life with joy and good expectations and be occasionally wrong than believe everyone has it out for me and be right about it. Rarely.

    Still, it is very hard to remember this. When you’re running late. Or always.
    So thanks for the reminder.

    (Also, people who merge at the last minute can be a-holes. Sometimes.)

  10. Well said. It hurts when we are on the other side – not given the time to be understood. We have to remember that and show it to others. It’s hard – and something we will fail at continuously. We can only hope to have more success than failure.

  11. I totally agree and you know who reminds me most to see the good in people? My daughter, with autism.
    Anytime I say something remotely judgemental she looks at me with a blank look as if she never would have thought about that if I hadn’t said it outloud and I instantly feel guilty for marring her pure view of the world.

  12. You should just move to FL, then with all the snowbirds, the cars that apparently drive without anyone behind the wheel and the erratic road rage … you will just be happy to get there … merge or no merge.
    You are a good soul my dear, never doubt that .. we will continue to look for the good in everyone … the alternative is no fun!

  13. I’ve been both people too. I find something about someone I don’t like and love to harp on it, especially when I have partners in crime. I find myself being the mean girl.

    But when someone (especially someone I don’t know) does something to me, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt — my husband says too much. I was at the zoo recently with a friend, and we got lots of dirty looks when our kids were having a hard time waiting in line for the train. I even got cut in front of when I had to step away to grab a kid, and then THAT lady made a comment about cutting in line! My reasoning? She didn’t see me standing in line and thought I was shoving my way in. It sounds naive, but it makes me feel better than being mad. 🙂

  14. Great post. I think we all have been there. It sucks to be reminded that we are not living up to what we want to be, but I think it would be far worse if statements like that stop bothering us. When I stop caring about being a better person then I will really be in trouble.

  15. Great insight Alex. However hard it is to turn a critical eye to ourselves, it is important to do sometimes. Also, I use to feel the way you do about merging. A couple of years ago I read the book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt (I know, I’m a nerd). He argues that those of us who merge too early are causing traffic to back up more because we are not utilizing the roads maximum capacity. If everyone waited to merge until the road ends it could also make for a more orderly merging process. I am totally a late merger now. It is an interesting read.

  16. Actually, the proper way to merge is in fact to use all available lanes. With both lanes in full available use it actually minimizes traffic disruptions.

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